[extropy-chat] "Hierarchical power is out"

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Mon Dec 25 08:22:47 UTC 2006

Jef Allbright wrote:
> Thomas -
> Thanks for your thorough reading and feedback.
> I detect two principle areas, apparently heavily laden with feelings of
> value, on which we might focus for our mutual edification:
> (1) What do we mean by coercion?
> >From Wikipedia:  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coercion>
> "Coercion is the practice of compelling a person to involuntarily behave
> in a certain way (whether through action or inaction) by use of threats,
> intimidation or some other form of pressure or force. Coercion may
> typically involve the actual infliction of physical or psychological
> harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of
> further harm may then lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person
> being coerced."
> My concern, and the reason I don't like to use the word, is that it
> fails when extended.  For example, suppose five individual farmers
> operate within a small town, all using traditional farming methods for
> many years, but recent developments in agricultural technology now offer
> greater productivity at lower cost.  If four of the five farmers adopt
> the new technology, but the fifth resists due to, say, religious
> beliefs, then it's likely that he would lose his livelihood due to being
> unable to effectively compete.  In such a case, is he being coerced?

Of course not. The wikipedia definition is faulty. Coercion is using
force or fraud to override a person's right to make their own decision
and follow it. The four farmers above are obviously not doing anything
of the kind. The fifth farmer freely chose differently. That his results
are not as good due to this choice and he may fail as a farmer by so
choosing is in no way coercion. It is simply consequences to the
decision made based on whether it works well enough in reality, Reality
includes the choices of others within the same field of endeavor. If
they make choices that objectively improve their results more than your
own then you will not be competitive with their offerings.

> Others have defined coercion more narrowly as relating only to cases
> involving the threat of *physical* force, including incarceration.  This
> attempt at narrowing to "physical" fails because any number of alternate
> forms of pressure ultimately lead to physical pressure.
Mere pressure is not coercion unless force or fraud is involved. To
define coercion more broadly is simply to be talking at cross purposes
about something quite different.

- samantha

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